Honolulu mayor makes exception for restaurant dine-in against health department recommendation

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Under Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s new COVID-19 framework set to take effect on Thursday, Sept. 24, restaurants would be allowed to reopen for dine-in service.

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Restaurants would be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, and only groups of five can dine together. However, this was not what the Department of Health and other health experts recommended to the mayor.

“I made it in a direct exception to the Department of Health recommendation,” said Caldwell. “Doctors here with me today recommended that we keep restaurants in tier one at take out and outdoor dining.”

He said other businesses like farming and fishing rely heavily on restaurants, and in order for the economy to recover, it was important to allow restaurants to resume dine-in service.

“For me it was the balancing of public health along with the economic benefits and health of our community,” said Caldwell. “I wanted to make sure that when we open up in the future, we can open up in an Oahu we can live in.”

However, there will be more rules at restaurants. One of the new changes is that masks must be worn at the table when not eating or drinking. Before, masks could be taken off as soon as guests were seated.

Restaurants will also now be asking for the names, addresses and phone numbers of all guests. Greg Maples, Hawaii Restaurant Association chairman said this information will only be used for contact tracing purposes.  

“To help satisfy the Department of Health, I think that was put in there for restaurants,” said Maples. “So that way we can really hone in and see if there are problems.”

However, Maples said he doesn’t believe restaurants are behind any COVID-19 clusters in Hawaii, and he doesn’t think that will change.

“I’m excited that we’re going to be tracking because I think it’s going to prove what I’ve been saying all along that restaurants are not the culprit.,” said Maples. “Could they be? Yes, they could, if we don’t follow the rules. And I can tell you on behalf of the owner operators, they, they have been, they will continue.”

Mayor Caldwell said the City and County of Honolulu will also be monitoring.

“If we see through contact tracing or other ways to do follow up that we’re seeing the spread of the virus in restaurants, then we could take either strategic action against certain restaurants or that sector could be moved back in the stay at home work at home, which would be limited to take out and maybe outdoor dining,” said Caldwell.

Maples said reopening now gives restaurants a chance to survive, especially with the Oct. 15 pre-travel testing program coming up.

“We’re just grateful to have the opportunity to be open, and hope that we, we don’t ever have to go back again, it. We can’t go back, that’s just the bottom line,” said Maples.

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